WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations defense subcommittee chairwoman pushed back on a recent White House move to withhold military aid to Egypt at the Defense News Conference on Wednesday.

Last month, the Trump administration announced it would cut roughly $100 million in military and economic assistance to Egypt and withhold almost $200 million in additional military aid until the country cleans up its human rights record and cuts ties with North Korea.

The funding cut would be reprogrammed to support “other key security partners, without undermining Egypt’s security,” according to a statement sent from administration officials to Defense News last month. The Foreign Military Financing funds to be reprogrammed amount to roughly $66 million along with $30 million in Economic Support Funds.

This isn’t the first time Egyptian military aid has hung in the balance, and Texas Republican Rep. Kay Granger said cutting such funding to serve as an ultimatum for humanitarian improvements “has never worked” and comes at a time when the U.S. could be healing its frayed relationship with Egypt.

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Granger noted that the Egyptians have upheld their agreements with countries like Israel. “They have done what we’ve asked them to do, what the world has asked them to do.”

Therefore, the administration’s recent move to withhold funding came as a “huge surprise for people like me who had worked to improve our relationship,” Granger said.

While Granger holds the top spot on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, she spent eight years as the ranking member and then chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee where she said she saw instances like this happen time and again.

“Some of the things like foreign military financing, it’s extremely important,” she said, and cutting off that aid doesn’t just hurt the country, but also hurts Americans domestically.

“The companies and the workers that put that equipment together in the United States are hurt; we also hurt our relationship with that country,” Granger said.

For example, Egypt buys F-16s through foreign military financing that allows countries that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford U.S.-made equipment to obtain it at lower cost. This also includes pilot training, which Granger noted further fosters military-to-military relationships.

Such relationships “went beyond the traditional government relationship, and it was really important,” she said.

While it appeared the U.S.-Egypt relationship was thawing late last year, the White House’s recent move calls that into question.

Granger also criticized the massive funding hits to the State Department and foreign operations as part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request.

“I don’t understand it. I don’t agree with it,” she said. “I saw so many times when we could do something with diplomacy to avoid doing something militarily, and it just worked time after time and served us very well.”

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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